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December 23, 2005

2 Charged In Connection With Loyalist Extortion

Donaldson & Sands
Press Eye - In Long Kesh prison, Northern Ireland, in the 70's, four I.R.A. stalwarts, from left: Tomboy Loudon, Gerard Rooney, Denis Donaldson and Bobby Sands. Mr. Donaldson proved to be something else: a spy for Britain.

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News About Ireland And The Irish

IO 12/22/05 Two Charged In Connection With Loyalist Extortion
IT 12/23/05 Call For State To Inspect US Flights Into Shannon
EX 12/22/05 More Republicans May Be Outed As British Spies
NY 12/22/05 British Agent Tells Of Yrs Undercover In Ulster
IT 12/23/05 SF, IRA In Witch-Hunt, Claims Orde
IT 12/23/05 Orde Admits Raid On Sinn Féin Office 'Was Clumsy'
UT 12/22/05 Ahern Wants Spy Claims Info Shared With Public
TH 12/22/05 Give Us The Truth About UK Spy Game
KN 12/22/05 Opin: Time For Spooks To Come In From The Cold
IT 12/23/05 OTR Clause Prompts Sharp Disputes
BB 12/23/05 Ambassador To Vatican Takes Post
IO 12/22/05 Christmas Release For Almost 300 Prisoners
IT 12/23/05 Pearse Items Donated To Museum


Two Charged In Connection With Loyalist Extortion

22/12/2005 - 20:06:46

Two men were charged tonight with blackmail as part of a
major police investigation into loyalist paramilitary
extortion in Belfast.

The pair, aged 20 and 44, were also accused of fundraising
for terrorism.

They are due to appear before a magistrate in the city

The two men were arrested by the PSNI's organised crime
squad, which has been probing loyalist extortion in the
east of the city over the past fortnight.


Call For State To Inspect US Flights Into Shannon

Mark Hennessy, Political Correspondent

The State must inspect any US flights landing at Shannon
suspected to be carrying prisoners in order to ensure these
passengers are not being sent on for torture, the Irish
Human Rights Commission will declare today.

The commission's statement on so-called "extraordinary
renditions" by the US authorities has been in preparation
for over a month.

In it, the commission will urge the Government to seek the
US government's agreement "as a matter of urgency" to
inspections of aircraft suspected of involvement in the

The State is obliged under domestic and international law
to ensure that prisoners are not taken on to countries
where they could be subject to torture or other forms of
degrading treatment.

During talks in Washington in early December with the
Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dermot Ahern, US secretary of
state Condoleezza Rice insisted that prisoners were not
being transported through Shannon.

However, the commission is believed to have come to the
conclusion that the State cannot merely accept the US's
guarantees if it is to comply with its international
obligations to prevent torture.

Members of the commission are believed to have carefully
studied the State's duty under the Human Rights Commission
Act, the United Nations' Convention Against Torture and the
European Convention on Human Rights.

Though the commission refused to comment last night in
advance of today's publication, The Irish Times understands
that it believes the State must formally investigate the
charges that have already been made about Shannon.

The involvement of the human rights body will increase the
pressure on the Government, which has quietly emphasised
the diplomatic difficulties that would surround carrying
out such checks on aircraft.

The Bush administration has become increasingly irritated
by the European Union's focus on the issue, particularly
following allegations that it ran two unofficial prisons in
Poland which are now being investigated. The Council of
Europe has warned member states that they have "a positive
obligation" to ensure that they do not breach the 50-year-
old European Convention on Human Rights.

Article 3 of the convention, which does not allow for any
exceptions to be made, makes it clear that "no one shall be
subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment
or punishment".

By this measure, the State would not be able to claim
ignorance as a defence if it ever emerges that prisoners
have been taken on the Shannon flights, since the
convention also covers a country's airspace.

Six aircraft chartered by the US Central Intelligence
Agency have landed at Shannon 43 times over the last four
years, according to figures released by Minister for
Transport Martin Cullen.

However, Amnesty International believes that the CIA has
landed more than 50 times in less than three years and
flown more than 800 flights around, and from western Europe
ferrying prisoners.

One of the aircraft seen frequently at Shannon, a
Gulfstream V, which has had its call sign changed three
times, is known as "the Guantanamo Bay Express" because it
has made more than 50 trips to the Caribbean detention

Up to now, the State has said that credible allegations
would be investigated by the Garda, but, so far, no such
investigation has begun - despite the circumstantial
evidence provided by Amnesty, Human Rights Watch and

The Human Rights Commission Act, 2000, which was set up as
part of the Belfast Agreement, gives significant powers to
the commission, which is headed by former Fine Gael TD and
senator, Maurice Manning. Section 8 of the Act states that
one of the functions of the commission is "to keep under
review the adequacy and effectiveness of law and practice
in the State relating to the protection of human rights".

Furthermore, the commission is also empowered to make
recommendations to the Government for ways "to strengthen,
protect and uphold human rights in the State".

© The Irish Times


More Republicans May Be Outed As British Spies

By Harry McGee, Political Editor

SPECULATION mounted yesterday that at least one more senior
republican may be 'outed' this weekend as an alleged spy
for British secret services.

In the continuing fallout from the Stormontgate affair,
several sources told the Irish Examiner yesterday that the
admission by Denis Donaldson that he was a British agent
for 20 years would not draw a line under the affair.

Three names were mentioned separately by sources, all of
whom spoke on condition of anonymity. Two are influential
Belfast republicans while the third is a prominent
republican figure in the South.

There are also indications that several people with
connections to Sinn Féin have also been warned their names
may be made public over the coming days.

The fresh round of speculation came as Taoiseach Bertie
Ahern and senior Government ministers were briefed on
Stormontgate by PSNI chief constable Sir Hugh Orde. In a
short statement issued after the hour-long meeting, the
Taoiseach urged Mr Orde to share the "maximum possible
information" with the public.

Mr Ahern said the fact that the Chief Constable had
travelled to Dublin gave an indication of the seriousness
of the case.

Mr Orde gave a presentation and then there were detailed
exchanges with him, involving Mr Ahern, Foreign Affairs
Minister Dermot Ahern, Justice Minister Michael McDowell
and the Garda Commissioner Noel Conroy.

There were a number of minor scuffles between gardaí and
Sinn Féin protesters as Mr Orde's motorcade entered
Government Buildings yesterday morning.

The continuing speculation derives from a belief shared in
some quarters of the Government that Mr Donaldson was
exposed as an agent last week in order to protect another
British agent at equal or higher level within republican

One authoritative source is of the firm belief that Mr
Donaldson was a double agent, whose work for police special
branch and for the British security services was known for
some time. "What's interesting is that Denis Donaldson did
his business (at the press conference) last Friday night to
sustain the republican position. It suggested strongly he
was scuppered a long, long time ago. The double agent
theory fits the evidence. And I think there is a strong
sense (among the republican leadership) that the whole
business of agents in the organisation has to be closed
down to protect its integrity and to stop others being


British Agent Tells (A Bit) Of Years Undercover In Ulster

Published: December 23, 2005

BELFAST, Northern Ireland, Dec. 21 - For decades, Denis
Donaldson was a prominent insider in the Irish Republican
movement in Belfast. He served in prison with Gerry Adams,
leader of its political arm, Sinn Fein, and Bobby Sands,
the hunger striker, who died in 1981. He trained in Lebanon
with Hezbollah militants.

Press Eye

Mr. Donaldson at his news conference last week, when he
admitted he was a double agent. Friends said he did not fit
that mold.

So it was all the more stunning last week when he held a
news conference in Dublin and declared himself a British
agent. No one had even a slight suspicion.

"He was affable, humorous, unassuming, intelligent," said
Danny Morrison, a former Sinn Fein associate who is now a
novelist. "He didn't lead a lavish lifestyle; I doubt if he
even owned own his own house. He didn't drink too much. He
didn't gamble. He didn't drive a flashy car. His wife never
wore fur."

Mr. Donaldson's double life told a story of awful choices
familiar to readers of John le Carré. Behind the open
conflict of the Troubles, as the long Northern Ireland
conflict is called, lay a war of shadowy handlers pressing
informants to the worst of betrayals.

"There had to be a moment when he was compromised," Mr.
Morrison said in an interview. "He would have had to make a
choice - between living with the consequences of what they
were going to expose about him, or deciding to enter into a
pact with people who had inflicted so much suffering on his
own community, his friends, himself."

In the beginning, it must all have seemed much simpler.

According to accounts pieced together from former
associates, journalists and scholars, Mr. Donaldson's early
career followed a familiar trajectory in Ulster.

He volunteered for the I.R.A. and in 1971, as a young
adult, was caught trying to bomb a distillery and
government buildings. He was sentenced to four years and
shared prison accommodation with Mr. Adams, establishing a
bond that made the betrayal all the more poignant.

Mr. Donaldson, now 55, also featured in a jail-cell
photograph of the hunger striker, Mr. Sands, adding to the
credentials that underpinned his career in the Republican
movement. It also made him an attractive target for the
British to turn.

Mr. Donaldson was arrested again, in 1981, in France while
returning with a false passport from a Hezbollah training
camp in Lebanon, said Brian Feeney, a historian and author
of a recent study of Sinn Fein. He was held briefly and

This incident was evidence of his role in fostering the
international ties that the I.R.A. built up with supporters
in the Middle East, including Muammar el-Qaddafi in Libya.

Some time during this period, Mr. Donaldson, by his own
account, became a spy for the British. The details of his
recruitment are unclear and he was not available for an
interview. Former associates said they believed that Mr.
Donaldson was in hiding in the Irish Republic.

"I was recruited in the 1980's after compromising myself
during a vulnerable period in my life," Mr. Donaldson said
at the news conference in Dublin. Offered a choice of being
exposed or informing, he said, "I have worked with British
intelligence and R.U.C./P.S.N.I. Special Branch," referring
to the Northern Ireland security police. "Over that period
I was paid money."

Once he had taken a first step into the world of secret
intelligence, many people here said, retreat would have
been difficult.

"The handlers would start off slow," said Richard English,
a professor of politics and the author of a history of the
I.R.A. "They would say: every so often you will give us a
bit of something and you will get a bit of money." But,
once he had taken the money, "it was difficult for him to
get out" without risking execution by the Irish Republican

Mr. Donaldson's later work as an agent coincided with a
critical period when the armed campaign against British
rule in Northern Ireland was giving way to a political
drive by Sinn Fein.

After the 1998 Good Friday agreement, the cornerstone of
peace efforts, Mr. Donaldson also became Sinn Fein's
administration chief at Stormont, the provincial

"As Sinn Fein became more important than the I.R.A., Sinn
Fein also became more important to the Special Branch,"
said Professor English. From the point of view of the
intelligence agencies, "they had a man at the heart of the
key bit of the Republican movement, which was the political

Sinn Fein officials dispute Mr. Donaldson's importance. "He
was in the middle leadership," said a spokesman for Sinn
Fein, who spoke in return for anonymity under the
organization's rules covering contacts with reporters. "He
was never a member of the negotiating committee. He
wouldn't have been a senior figure. He wouldn't have had
access to confidential papers."


SF, IRA In Witch-Hunt, Claims Orde

Mark Hennessy, Political Correspondent

Former Sinn Féin official Denis Donaldson's unveiling as
a British spy has led to "a huge witch-hunt" within Sinn
Féin and the IRA for informers, PSNI Chief Constable Sir
Hugh Orde has said.

Speaking following a 90-minute meeting with Taoiseach
Bertie Ahern, Michael McDowell and Dermot Ahern yesterday,
Mr Orde said it appeared that "everyone is now an informant
in the North". Entering Government Buildings by car, Mr
Orde was heckled by a small group of Sinn Féin supporters,
who alleged that the PSNI is involved in "political

Refusing to confirm or deny Donaldson's role, he insisted
that he cannot in law identify informers, and that he is
required to protect their rights to life under all
circumstances. "All I can do is get as many of the facts as
I can out so that people can form their own judgement. I am
not breaking the law to make my point, so you can trust me,
or you can trust someone else."

The Taoiseach said he hoped the public would get "the
maximum possible information", although he acknowledged
that Mr Orde has already met with the NI Policing Board.

Mr Ahern and Ministers questioned Mr Orde in detail: "The
briefing and exchanges were confidential. It would not be
appropriate to go into detail," a Government press release

Sinn Féin, said Mr Orde, last week claimed that the PSNI
had "outed" Donaldson by sending uniformed officers to his
west Belfast home to warn him that he was under threat.
However, the PSNI last month warned dozens of senior
republican figures after they had found their names and
addresses in the hands of loyalist paramilitaries.

"They can't have it both ways. It is what we do," said Mr
Orde, who hinted that the PSNI might not in future warn
individuals of every single unverified threat. "My personal
view is that sometimes we are over-sensitive. We need to be
more robust about who we warn and who we don't warn.
Everyone knows where everyone lives, frankly."

© The Irish Times


Orde Admits Raid On Sinn Féin Office 'Was Clumsy'

Chief Constable Hugh Orde came to Dublin yesterday to
rebut Sinn Féin's charges that "Stormontgate" was a police
con job, writes Mark Hennessy

Hugh Orde became Chief Constable of the Police Service of
Northern Ireland a month before police arrived at Stormont
in large numbers on October 4th 2002, to search one Sinn
Féin office. The television images of officers, one or two
accompanied by Alsatian dogs, leaving the building doomed
the Northern Executive and Assembly.

Speaking yesterday, following his meeting with Taoiseach
Bertie Ahern, Mr Orde acknowledged: "I am on record as
saying that the search at Stormont could have been done

"I said that within 24 hours. I was the first chief ever to
criticise his own officers, apparently. I said that that
was not done very well. But we only searched one office,
and we had a warrant," he said.

The one office searched belonged to Denis Donaldson, the
man who confirmed last week that he was a British spy for
the last two decades.

"If I had wanted to make mischief I would have searched
every single one. The way we did it was clumsy. I have said
that. But that's the sad reality of the culture of the

"If for 30 years every time you do a search someone tries
to kill you, then you turn up with a reasonable number of
people. No one thought, 'This is Stormont'. No one thought,
'This is just one office, or that we could do this in a
different way,'" he told The Irish Times. Furthermore, Mr
Orde is adamant that the PSNI had nothing to do with
bringing television cameras to Stormont to witness the
death knell of the North's political institutions.

"We did not get media there. That is just nonsense. It was
the Shinners that were herding the media about. That is not
me saying that, it is the media."

Mr Orde insists that one single camera crew was present at
Stormont to film Northern Ireland's then environment
minister Dermot Nesbitt's plea to Northern shoppers to use
less plastic bags.

"They did not know we were coming. There was a camera crew
up there because he was announcing something about plastic
recycling. The people up there got a great scoop.

"The people ringing up to get the rest of you up there were
Sinn Féin, not us. My officers don't want to be
photographed. They spent 30 years not wanting to be
photographed," he said.

Despite Sinn Féin's denials, the Chief Constable insists
that IRA had gathered intelligence at Stormont, some of it
straight from the NI Secretary of State's office.

Besides addresses for police, prison officers and others,
the intelligence haul taken from underneath Mr Donaldson's
west Belfast bed included transcripts of conversations
between senior politicians.

"Why would I copy transcripts of conversations between the
Taoiseach and the prime minister, or notes of conversations
between the prime minister and President Bush? There were
notes of meetings between the prime minister and other
political parties. Note the emphasis on the word 'other'.
Why would I copy that? Why would I put that in a rucksack
in west Belfast," he said. Under law, the Chief Constable
cannot confirm, or deny whether Denis Donaldson was a
British informer, even though he complains that it means
that he cannot defend the PSNI properly against Sinn Féin

"Sinn Féin knows this. All I can do is get as many of the
facts as I can out so that people can form their own
judgment from an informed point of view."

Criticising Sinn Féin for failing to acknowledge the
changes made in the PSNI since the Patten Report
recommendations, he said: "We have done everything that was
asked of us.

"We proved on the 10th of September that we can defend
nationalists. Not one loyalist broke through police lines.

"My guys deployed under live fire to stop that. Have they
even acknowledged that? Give me one example of a Sinn Féin
leader saying nothing, or saying that we did a reasonable
job, or saying that we did sort of okay. Not one, not one."

© The Irish Times


Ahern Wants Spy Claims Info Shared With Public

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern called today for more information on
Northern Ireland spying allegations to be shared with the

By:Press Association

PSNI Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde held a one-hour security
briefing in Dublin with Mr Ahern, Justice Minister Michael
McDowell, Foreign Affairs Minister Dermot Ahern and Garda
Commissioner Noel Conroy.

It was the first face-to-face meeting between Sir Hugh and
the Irish Government since the dramatic dropping of charges
in an alleged IRA spy scandal at Stormont which destroyed
power-sharing between unionists and republicans in 2002.

Last week it also emerged that Sinn Fein aide Denis
Donaldson was working as a British agent within the party
for more than 20 years.

The Taoiseach said Sir Hugh`s visit to Government Buildings
indicated the seriousness of the spying controversies, and
asked him to share as much information as possible on the
issue with the public.

Mr Ahern also reiterated that the main priority for the
British and Irish Governments and the political parties
must remain the restoration of devolution in 2006.

The Taoiseach`s spokeswoman said Sir Hugh gave a
confidential briefing to the Irish Government which was
followed by detailed exchanges.

"The Taoiseach said the Chief Constable`s visit was an
indication of the seriousness that attached to this case,"
she said.

"The Taoiseach welcomed the fact the Chief Constable had
briefed the Policing Board, and he urged that the maximum
possible information be shared with the public.

The general subject of policing in Northern Ireland was
discussed as well as continuing progress on full
implementation of the Patten Report.

"The primary focus of the Governments and the political
parties must be the future and the priority of restoring
the devolved institutions in 2006," the spokeswoman added.

Sir Hugh left Government Buildings without speaking to
waiting reporters.

Earlier, there were minor scuffles between noisy Sinn Fein
protestors and gardai as the Chief Constable arrived in

Up to 20 young Sinn Fein protestors with "No Political
Policing" placards tried to block Sir Hugh`s two-vehicle
cavalcade entering the front gates of Government Buildings
but were held back by up to a dozen uniformed gardai.

A klaxon brandished by one protester at the Chief
Constable`s car was confiscated by an officer.

Sinn Fein MEP Mary Lou McDonald, who attended today`s
demonstration, said: "We`re making it clear to Hugh Orde,
the British Government and the Taoiseach that political
policing must cease and that securocrats must not be
allowed to run amok in Ireland to undermine the peace

"They cannot be outside the law. They must understand that
very clearly."

Ms McDonald said that party members were shocked by the
exposure of Mr Donaldson as a British agent within Sinn
Fein for 20 years.

"People are disappointed, and shaken even, by the
revelations around Denis Donaldson, but understand that it
would have been extremely naive to imagine that Britain had
ceased the use of agents and political spooks and spies.

"But people are absolutely determined that those who are
negative to the process, and want to tear down everything
we built up, will not succeed."

A spokeswoman for Sir Hugh said both he and the Taoiseach
requested today`s talks.

Sir Hugh has already rejected Sinn Fein claims that the
raid on Parliament Buildings, Stormont, three years ago,
against republican spying, was politically motivated.

Ms McDonald said today: "We need confidence-building
measures and assurances that the British system will hold
its rogue elements to account."

The alleged IRA spying plot, which brought down the
Northern Ireland Executive, has come under fresh scrutiny
since it was disclosed a week ago that alleged suspect Mr
Donaldson was a Special Branch and MI5 mole.

Mr Donaldson, 55, the republican party`s former head of
administration at Stormont, was arrested during the
original police operation and accused with two other men of
involvement in the espionage.

Ms McDonald added: "This year has been historic.
Republicans have done the heavy lifting. The IRA has made
clear that their campaign is over. Now we need proof from
Tony Blair that the British war in Ireland is over."


Give Us The Truth About UK Spy Game

Eamonn O'Neill December 23 2005

Copyright © 2005 Newsquest (Herald & Times) Limited. All
Rights Reserved

Often a very average Hollywood movie contains one scene or
even single line of dialogue that hints at a quality
missing from the wider project or a deeper meaning that the
whole script aimed for but didn't quite hit.

A perfect example of this phenomenon belongs half way
through the less-than-great Robert Redford and Brad Pitt
movie Spy Game. That's when world-weary, about-to-retire
spy-boss Redford realises his protégé Pitt is about to be
sacrificed by CIA top-brass in order to keep US-China trade
talks going. In one scene, he discovers that his own office
has been raided by colleagues looking for documents. The
level of treachery facing him finally hits home. "What's
all this about?" asks his secretary, amid the wrecked
office. In replying to that question, Redford delivers the
best line in the movie: "It's about money, free trade,
microchips, toaster ovens..."

In other words he's talking about how a decision made at a
cold, general level has very real human consequences at
ground level, and hints at how countless lives are thrown
away by men in suits because of things like "toaster

The news this week then, that former Sinn Fein man Denis
Donaldson is actually a long-time British double agent
might sound, to the uninitiated, like something from a lame
spy novel. The stony silence that's emerged from Sinn Fein
has made matters only more bizarre. I came across him a
handful of times when reporting from Northern Ireland down
the years. He said nothing. He never stood out. But he was
impor-tant. There are many Denis Donaldson-types in the
Republican ranks. The idea that he is – as he claimed – a
British double agent has stunned the Republican faithful.

Version A says he was coerced into this role donkey's years
ago after some kind of personal incident (involving women,
according to rumours) which laid him open to blackmail;
version B posits that he willingly accepted this
pressurised role because he believed politically in
undermining the Republican cause; and, finally, version C
has him actually being spotted by the Republicans years
ago, and thus told he'd be spared if he double-backed on
his British spymasters and fed the IRA information.

The whole mess, of course, starts to sound like a farcical
real-life version of Space Cadets which resorted to
planting rumours about itself on the net to the effect that
maybe even the vulnerable characters exploited by wily,
cynical producers were actually actors themselves... only
they weren't and the show was what it was: TV at its
grubby, dangerous worst.

The same goes for this mess.

It's too easy to make cheap jokes about it. In fact, it's a
real-life horror story. Just ask the family of Francisco
Notarantonio. That's not a name you'll come across often –
nor one easily remembered. In fact, some might only recall
it because it's obviously Italian. That's an "error" the
UDA/UFF gunman made when he blew his brains out in October

When someone told those Loyalist terrorists that someone
with "an Italian name" was a top IRA man, they slaughtered
66-year-old Mr Notarantonio by mistake. The intended target
more probably should have been Freddie Scappaticci – the
alleged head of the IRA's internal "Nutting" squad whose
job it was to ferret out and interrogate suspected double

Lo and behold, Scappaticci, it was later reported, was a UK
double agent himself on an alleged £80,000 salary and
better known to his spymasters from every security outfit
you could imagine, as top agent "Stakeknife", a charge he
has always publicly denied. The UDA/UFF men who'd wanted to
kill him had instead been guided to Mr Notarantonio by
another British agent, Brian Nelson, to protect the bigger
fish, Scappaticci.

Later, in an even more bizarre twist, Scappaticci ended up
interrogating Kevin Fulton, another UK double agent, who
managed to flee before being shot. In order to preserve the
more senior source inside the Provos, someone, somewhere
calculates who lives and who dies. So, the deed is done and
innocents and not-so-innocents die, and rogues like
Scappaticci and Fulton leg it to God knows where. And, in
the ashes, other characters such as Donaldson emerge like
dead-men-walking not knowing whose side – if any – they can

Meanwhile, the names of the innocents, like Notarantonio,
are lost. Only their families remember them. In this case a
grandchild, who says she'll always remember the gunmen's
blue boiler suits, their guns and the three fatal gunshots.

Surely, then, the time has come to hear such evidence
through nothing less than a full public inquiry. The events
of one terrible day – Bloody Sunday – have already been the
subject of such an inquiry, so arguably – following the
same "truth and reconciliation" logic – the collective
sordid events of the past three decades also need to be
dragged into the open. It's time the puppets and the
masters of the UK's spy game were held accountable for
their actions. The British public can take the nasty truth.

After all, people like the Notarantonio family have been
dealing with its blood-splattered consequences for years


Opin: Time For Spooks To Come In From The Cold

WHAT an extraordinary island we live on. In the south, a
government minister uses D·il privilege and confidential
garda files to destroy a man's reputation and livelihood,
while in the north a British agent at the heart of Sinn
Féin is hung out to dry by his erstwhile handlers. Both
cases illustrate an abuse of power made more worrying by
the fact that neither British nor Irish ministers seem to
find anything wrong with it.

Take the Frank Connolly case first. The minister for
nonsense Michael McDowell believes that Connolly, a former
journalist who now heads the independent Centre for Public
Inquiry, represents a serious threat to the security of the
Irish state. This was his justification for leaking garda
files to a national newspaper. Despite the eminent people
sitting on the board of this relatively new body, Mr
McDowell was so concerned at Connolly's involvement that he
launched a campaign that resulted in the effective
destruction of the Centre for Public Inquiry as well as the
blackening of an Irish citizen's name. In the minister's
eyes, this was a good day's work.

It should be a cause for alarm that a minister in charge of
the internal security apparatus of this state takes such a
cavalier attitude to civil rights and due process. Mr
McDowell is answerable to us, the citizens of this country.
He appears to think it's the other way around.

Frank Connolly may well have questions to answer about
whether or not he has ever been to Colombia and, if so,
what he did there. However, this disgraceful episode is
certainly not the way to go about getting those answers.

Mr McDowell's pathological hatred of republicanism appears
to be mirrored by the reformed Police Service of Northern
Ireland - or at least elements within it. How else to
explain the so-called Stormontgate affair of 2002, when
conveniently placed television cameras captured dramatic
footage of the PSNI 'raid' on Sinn Féin's offices at the
Stor-mont Assembly? It was widely reported in the media
that a 'republican spy ring' had been broken and the spies

It now appears that the only spies operating in Stormont
were paid British agents. Yet this was the pretext for a
high-ly public police raid that led to the deliberate
collapse of a democratically-elected legislature. And they
call this policing?

The taoiseach himself has said he is baffled, declaring
that: "It never added up. A large number of police and huge
armaments, storming in, to collect a few clerks and a few
files and the TV was in first. It stretches my imagination.

"This was a huge case. It doesn't get any bigger than
bringing down democratically elected institutions that
people voted for. What this is about I just don't know."

It seems obvious that some within the PSNI, particularly in
the Special Branch, will never be able to reconcile
themselves to the legitimate aspirations of Northern
nationalists. To that end, they were willing and able to
subvert the Northern Assembly. Until such time as the
Special Branch is disbanded and the rogue elements within
the PSNI are brought to heel, it is unreasonable to expect
the nationalist community to make any positive moves on

One can only hope that the New Year brings more enlightened
political leadership on both sides of the border.


OTR Clause Prompts Sharp Disputes

Deaglán de Bréadún, in Belfast

There were widespread recriminations yesterday over the
British government's "on-the-runs" legislation, with sharp
exchanges between the two main nationalist parties in
Northern Ireland and disagreement between the British and
Irish governments on the degree of consultation prior to
the publication of the Bill.

SDLP leader Mark Durkan challenged the veracity of Sinn
Féin's Mitchel McLaughlin on Radio Ulster's Talkback
programme. Mr McLaughlin, meanwhile, accused the British
government of "pulling a flanker", ie playing a trick, by
including the security forces under the terms of the Bill.

He also accused the SDLP of "revisionism" about its own
stance. Citing comments by former SDLP deputy leader Bríd
Rodgers about the Weston Park talks in 2001, Mr McLaughlin
claimed: "She made it clear that, while they were not
involved in the negotiations on the OTRs, they went along
with it."

Mr Durkan replied: "Nobody accepted a package at Weston
Park, there wasn't a package at Weston Park."

He added: "Mitchel is admitting that Sinn Féin have taken a
different line in private than they have in public because
the fact is, Sinn Féin welcomed the legislation. Not only
did [ Sinn Féin MP] Conor Murphy fly over [ to Westminster]
to welcome the Bill, it was a published Bill that he

Also yesterday, senior Irish Government sources continued
to insist emphatically that they had not received any prior
consultation or warning from the British government that
the security forces would be covered by the legislation.
British government sources told The Irish Times earlier
this week that "the whole shape of the scheme" had been
discussed with Dublin. Denying this firmly, high-level
Dublin sources said it was "a Peter Hain decision at the
last minute".

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams said London "double-crossed"
his party by including members of the security forces in
the Bill. "Downing Street have told me that very clearly,
that they accept that they broke commitments which they

Democratic Unionist Party deputy leader Peter Robinson
challenged Sinn Féin to state why IRA members should get
special treatment. "Why should any evil, determined
terrorist be pardoned while members of the security forces
who, if they made a bad judgment call while defending this
community, in circumstances not of their making, face the
risk of prosecution and jail arising from decisions made in
difficult and dangerous circumstances?"

© The Irish Times


Ambassador To Vatican Takes Post

The first Roman Catholic appointed UK ambassador to the
Vatican since the Reformation will later present his
credentials to Pope Benedict XVI.

Francis Campbell is expected to stress the UK's commitment
to dialogue within the Christian family and with other
religions at the Vatican ceremony.

He will pay tribute to the Catholic Church's role in
providing education and healthcare in the developing world.

Mr Campbell, 35, has already worked in Rome as first

He is the first Northern Irish Catholic to hold a UK
ambassadorial post since the Republic of Ireland gained
independence in 1921.

BBC correspondent David Willey said heads of the diplomatic
mission in Rome were normally at the end of their careers
and that Mr Campbell was "a career diplomat of a new

He "has the ear of Downing Street" as a former advisor on
European affairs to Prime Minister Tony Blair, David Willey

The job was advertised in a newspaper in July - the first
time an ambassadorial post had been put out to open
competition in an advert.

The previous ambassador, Kathryn Colvin, left in September
after three years at the Vatican.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/12/23 02:31:33 GMT


Christmas Release For Almost 300 Prisoners

22/12/2005 - 16:57:45

Up to 280 prisoners will be granted temporary release this
Christmas, Justice Minister Michael McDowell said tonight.

This figure represents 9% of the prisoner population and is
a small reduction on the number released last year, which
was 294.

Many of the prisoners being released are nearing the end of
their sentences, while others are serving relatively short

"The overriding concern in considering applications for
Christmas release from prisoners is the safety of the
public," Mr McDowell said tonight.

In addition to compassionate and humane considerations,
other criteria taken into account include the nature and
gravity of the offence, length of sentence served to date,
prior record on temporary release, if any, and previous
criminal history.

The periods of release, under the Criminal Justice Act
1960, vary from a few hours (in some cases accompanied by
another responsible person) to up to eight nights.

All releases are subject to stringent conditions, which in
the vast majority of cases includes a requirement to report
on a regular basis to his/her local garda station.

Any offender who breaks these conditions may be arrested
and returned immediately to prison by the gardaí.


Pearse Items Donated To Museum

Marie O'Halloran

Pádraig Pearse's chequebook and a number of his cashed
cheques are part of some significant memorabilia donated to
the National Museum of Ireland.

The items will form part of a major exhibition at the
Museum of Decorative Arts and History, Collins Barracks, to
mark the 90th anniversary of the 1916 Rising next year.

The documents include nine proof copies of a prospectus for
shares in Scoil Éanna, or St Enda's school, which the
Rising leader established in Rathfarnham, Dublin, as well
as a copy of the memorandum and articles of association for
the school.

Two large bank lodgement books are also among the items
and, like the chequebook, are from the Hibernian Bank.

The chequebook, from the bank's Lower Sackville Street
branch, contained 27 cashed cheques, including one for £6
made out to Mrs Pearse, Pádraig Pearse's mother, and one
for £15 to Clerys department store. They were signed by
Pádraig Pearse and Stiofáin Baireád, one of the school's
directors. The cheques were all cashed in mid-1912.

A number of bank forms are also among the documents,
including a slip that states one account had a balance of
£11, four shillings and three pence.

A separate item in the museum's possession which will also
form part of the exhibition is a Sinn Féin minutes book of
its meetings between 1909 and 1912. It includes the
signatures of Sinn Féin's founder Arthur Griffith and
Countess Markievicz, among others.

The museum was approached about the Pearse documents by Ita
Kavanagh, a friend of the donor Áine Ó Suilleabháin, whose
late husband Donnchadh Ó Suilleabháin, a former secretary
and president of Conradh na Gaeilge, had acquired them.

Director of the museum Dr Pat Wallace described the
chequebook, bank books and school prospectus as "very
significant and very relevant just now because they can be
included in the 1916 exhibition".

The prospectus copies were proofed and corrected by
different people, including Pearse. The prospectus was
prepared to offer shares to establish St Enda's school for
boys and St Ita's school for girls and to put them "in a
thoroughly sound position".

It had a capital provision of £8,000 and shareholders were
asked to buy shares for £1.

The schools were intended to provide a secondary education
that was "Irish in complexion, bilingual in method, and of
a high modern type generally".

Dr Wallace said the prospectus proofs showed the level of
Pearse's involvement in the school, including his hands-on
role in running it on a day-to-day basis.

One of the entries in the Sinn Féin minutes book for 1911
refers to a call for an inquiry into "police action"
outside the City Hall.

The entry says that if nothing resulted from the demand for
an inquiry, a conference should be set up by various
nationalist bodies "for the purpose of forming a vigilance
committee to protect the citizens from a repetition of the
treatment meted out to them by the police on recent

The exhibition will open during Easter week next year. It
will include weapons, uniforms and other items among the
museum's collection, some of which were acquired as early
as 1927.

© The Irish Times

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